Schools told to change their focus on bullying

Independent, 31 March 2014, Ireland

Tackling bullying in schools must involve changing cultures and not simply focus on the perpetrator and the victim in isolated incidents, according to an anti-bullying campaigner. Monica Monahan, chief executive of the National Anti-Bullying Coalition (NABC), said people must "must move from viewing bullying as someone else's flawed behaviour and problem" to something that is part of society and civic behaviour. Ms Monahan was speaking as the deadline for schools to implement new anti-bullying policies draws near. From Easter, it will be mandatory for all primary and post-primary schools to have an anti-bullying policy in place, in line with guidelines set out by the Department of Education last year. Schools will be required to have strategies relating to education, prevention and handling of bullying behaviour, including cyberbullying, homophobic bullying and transphobic bullying. The policy must be reviewed every year.

Schools were told to develop the policy in consultation with parents, students and all staff. Today, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn will announce another round of funding to help train parents to identify and deal with incidents of bullying, with the initiative run jointly by the National Parents Council Primary and the National Parents Council Post Primary. Speaking at a conference on bullying in the digital age and the challenge for schools, Ms Monahan said student-to-student bullying was nearly always part of a larger system and there was a need to look at all relationships in the relevant community.

She said a school prevention campaign must not focus exclusively on student behavioural problems. "We must move away from viewing bullying as someone else's bad behaviour and understand the system that supports it and our place in it", she said. She called for greater understanding of the role of the bystander, who supported bullying by not intervening.